As with Donald Trump tweets, there’s a Hamilton song for every occasion:
I’m in recovery, according to Doc Awesome, which means (put slightly different) I’m on my own. Awesome, wow! But do I have a clue what happens now?
Well, yes. Kind of.
I’ve got relatively mild OCD. But I’ve been working hard at my recovery ever since getting thrown through a bit of a loop in mid-May, and four things have been especially vital.
They are, in approximate order of importance:
- Mindfulness (there’s no magic bullet for recovery, but I’m growing more and more convinced that mindfulness meditation is pretty darn close)
This is basic stuff, but it’s critical; if I don’t get enough sleep, for example, my brain will be grumpy the following day. I’ve done other stuff, too. I did daily exposure with response prevent, or ERP, from mid-May to early October. And I still take an antidepressant, though I plan on reducing my dosage in the new year. Ultimately, though, living with OCD often means simply living with OCD – letting the unwanted thoughts come and go, treating them like the mental flotsam they probably are, and not giving them any power. And it means taking basic self-care measures that are vital to everyday well-being regardless of whether or not you have a mental disorder.
Having mild OCD means it seldom incapacitates me. It certainly has, once upon a time, but that was before I developed the tools to manage it. I’ve got them now, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. Ironically, I reached a point a few weeks ago where my recovery from OCD was actually becoming compulsive – and so I’ve pulled back a bit, and instead of meticulously cataloging my day-to-day well-being I’ve simply committed to living well with or without OCD symptoms. And by doing that, I’m actually speeding my recovery up. So that’s what comes next: slow and steady progress towards a life where OCD’s allowed to come and go as it pleases and where I’m able to ignore it almost completely. It’s nice to know that goal’s becoming closer and closer with each passing day.
I chatted with Doc Awesome on Monday. Here are the notes from our appointment:
- You’re in recovery.
- “You’re living your life with OCD. You’re not giving into rituals. You’re responding to obsessions the way we’ve talked about. You’re not avoiding things.”
- Continue to agree with/magnify your obsessive thoughts, no matter how difficult, every single time
- OCD wants you to see yourself as different. You’re not.
- We all have to live with these worst-case scenarios, even if non-OCDers don’t think about them.
- “I’m going to keep doing these things with the possibility that my worst fear could happen.”
- Respond matter-of-factly to OCD: “Oh, there it is again!” Don’t give obsessions an emotional response in any way; respond in the opposite way that OCD expects.
- Your attitude – of ambivalence, of indifference – will get you where you want to go. Ambivalence takes the power away from OCD.
- Continue to treat OCD like an annoying friend
- Don’t be frustrated by OCD. Instead, see it as a challenge.
- Don’t be obsessive about recovery. Let go of the obsession about getting better!
- Touch base once a month? Every 5-6 weeks?
- YOU ARE RECOVERED. 🙂
There’s still work to be done – but look at where we are; look at where we started.
Thank you everyone from your support these past few months.
- Everything Now
- Signs of Life
- Rebellion (Lies)
- Here Comes the Night Time
- No Cars Go
- Electric Blue
- Put Your Money On Me
- Neon Bible
- My Body is a Cage
- Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
- The Suburbs
- The Suburbs (Continued)
- Ready to Start
- Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
- Creature Comfort
- Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
- We Don’t Deserve Love
- Everything Now (Continued)
- Wake Up
Win dedicated the show to Gord; ditto Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene, who opened (Drew produced both the Hip’s Man Machine Poem record and Gord’s posthumous solo album).
Sam and I saw the New Pornographers at Massey Hall a couple weeks ago, the latest instalment of that hallowed venue’s “Live at Massey” concert series. And as the band played on, my mind, as it’s wont to do, began to wander.
It settled on June 1, 2017, when I saw Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds at Massey. Chris Cornell had died two weeks earlier; I was still devastated by his death, still unsure when, or even if, live music would matter to me anymore. Right before the show started Pearl Jam Heather got up and started toward the aisle – then wheeled around and said to me, “Gord Downie.” I stood up, and there he was, walking right towards us. He looked good; he looked healthy. He walked past, then went backstage; a few minutes later he re-emerged, then took a seat near the back.
Every so often during the show I’d check up on Gord. It takes a lot to detract from Nick Cave – but Gord could do it. Gord could detract from anyone.
And then the encore started, and during “Stagger Lee” I looked back at Gord. And he was gone.
I never saw him again.
I’m not ready for this just yet…
…but I’m happy to report that it’s been a landmark week for me in my recovery from OCD. Last Wednesday Doc Awesome called time on my “planned” exposure homework, which I’d done almost every single day since mid-May, when Chris Cornell’s suicide sent me into the most severe lapse I’ve had in years – if not ever.
And now I don’t have to do it anymore.
Don’t get me wrong: I still have to do exposure work. Unplanned exposure is the yin to planned exposure’s regimented yan. Unwanted thoughts are still going to pop up; one of the goals of planned ERP is developing the skills necessary to deal with them quickly and effectively. But (to paraphrase Lin-Manuel Miranda) look at where I am; look at where we started! In June I made what’s known as a fear hierarchy, which, simply put, is a ranked list of things that trigger my obsessive thoughts. On that initial list I gave a 10-out-of-10 to watching the Netflix angst-a-thon 13 Reasons Why. I finished the series last week; its final rating was a 2. Meanwhile, another item, which I’ve got as a 4/10, didn’t even make the original list because, as I wrote in my OCD journal, “I didn’t think there’d ever be any way I’d be able to do it.” Not only have I done it (numerous times, actually), 4 might be a generous rating.
So we’re making progress. It’s been slow, at times agonizingly so – but it’s been steady, and this latest development’s pretty major. There’s still work to do, and planned exposures will resume at various points (like next week, in preparation for my first work trip of the new recruitment year). But all success in mental health recovery is worth celebrating – and today, on World Mental Health Day, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to celebrate myself.
It isn’t mission accomplished. But it’s mission going better than ever.
I love you baby and I always will
Ever since I put your picture in a frame
– Tom Waits, “Picture in a Frame”
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are” – J.P. Morgan
First and foremost:
- Marry my soulmate ✓
- Work for her love every single day
And after that…
- See my OCD recovery all the way through to its conclusion (and don’t become complacent: keep working just as hard even if my symptoms become subclinical)
- Write regular mental health blog entries
- Submit a proposal to speak at the 2018 International OCD Conference in Washington DC
A Hamilton Interlude!
- Talk less. Become a better listener.
- Smile more. Learn to take yourself less seriously.
- Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for. Let them know exactly what you’re against or what you’re for. Disregard Aaron Burr, sir.
- Finish reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
- Be debt-free on August 16, 2018
- Divest from unethical personal investments
- Drink a butterbeer at the Lockhart ✓
- Take a cooking course (as opposed to individual classes)
- Eat more adventurously
- Challenge myself as a reader
- Write a monthly Nick Hornby-style blog entry about the books I’ve bought/borrowed and read the previous month
- Acquire a T206 card; bonus point if it’s the Honus Wagner card (it likely won’t be the Honus Wagner card)
- Go to Cooperstown
- See the San Francisco Giants; bonus point if the game’s actually in San Francisco
- See a 2018 Jays road game; bonus point if it’s at a stadium I’ve never visited
- See a football game at (new) Richardson Stadium
- See a Leafs road game; bonus point if it’s at an arena I’ve never visited
- Acquire a Dallas Stars Stephen Johns t-shirt jersey (yup, same spelling and everything)
- Play fantasy hockey ✓
- Climb to the top of Candy Mountain in Thunder Bay
- Cross the finish line of the Ride to Conquer Cancer
- Do 1,000 km of training rides
- Volunteer at the Hospital for Sick Children
- Give blood*
- Reacquire this (the original was decapitated in a brutal shelf collapsing incident) ✓
- Attend a music festival
- Go to California
And Above All…
- Challenge myself always
- Approach 37 like a belt-high fastball on a hitter’s count
(★ – bonus points)
(Updated September 15, 2017)
(* – a quick note about giving blood. I’d looked into donating a couple times before, but Canada Blood Services told me I couldn’t because I’d had cancer. Evidently they’ve changed the rules. Ironically, though, I may not be able to donate just yet because of my travel schedule: both Cusco and India, where I’ll be heading in November, are on the malaria list and, as a result, disqualify would-be donors for a year. This might change, obviously, which is why “give blood” appears on this year’s list – but there’s a very good chance it’ll have to reappear on 38 for 38.)